Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quirky Girl Pick: Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal
Ten Miles Past Normal
by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Atheneum (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division)
2011
211 pages

Fresh, offbeat, and funny, Ten Miles Past Normal will have readers and librarians enthralled. This book may be picked by savvy state library associations as the best of 2011.

Janie Gorman doesn't want to be known as the Goat Girl, but it's hard to shake that name when she sometimes smells of goat poop and other rich farm smells. Living on a small goat farm with her pseudo-hippy parents and "getting back to nature" blogger mother, and making natural goat cheese sounded like fun when Janie was nine; now that she's in high school, being awakened at dawn by an industrious rooster and feeding goats before school is not as much fun as she had once thought it would be.

Janie has yet to find her high school niche; she longs for a place to fit in. When she is offered bass guitar lessons by a boy named Monster, she gives it a try. The funny thing is, Janie was born to play the bass! Now, she's one of the "cool" Jam Band kids.

The Goat Girl is now the Jam Band bass girl. Ten Miles Past Normal is a fun read and a real page turner. It's nice to see that normal girls living normal lives can be an interesting read for teens--girls don't have to have super-powers or paranormal boyfriends to be entertaining.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up.
No language, no sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Middle School Pick: Gossip From the Girls' Room

Gossip From the Girls' Room: A Blogtastic! Novel
Gossip From the Girls' Room
by Rose Cooper
Delacourte Press, 2011
198 pages

Cute, quirky, and funny, Gossip From the Girls' Room is a novel aimed at tween girls--probably those tween girls who keep diaries, girls who write their names in cursive with hearts for dots above the i's and j's, girls who whisper their latest crush's name to their BFF's.

Sofia keeps a super-secret pre-blogging notebook where she writes down all the super-secret gossip she "overhears" in the girls' bathroom. Actually, she stands on the seat of the last commode and hides in wait, hoping someone will spill a fat, juicy secret. Then, Sofia reports her findings in her blog--which is widely read by students at Middlebrooke Middle School.

Much of Sofia's time is spent worrying why Mia St. Claire is so annoying rich and unbelievably pretty. Sofia's BFF Nona goes a little boy crazy and begins to have little time for Sofia. To make matters worse, Sofia's mother takes a substitute teaching job at Middlebrooke!

Oh, the woes of middle school! Illustrated by the author, this novel's font has the feel of a written diary like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Readers who loved Dork Diaries will like this book.

Recommmended grades 5-7.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, March 28, 2011

High School Pick-Held

Held
Held
by Edeet Ravel
Annick Press, 2011
248 pages

When seventeen year old Chloe travels to Greece with her best friend Angie to work for a volunteer program, they are excited to see the sights. One morning, Chloe ventures off to see the Nemesis Temple on her own and stops by the road for lunch outdoors. This is the perfect opportunity for someone to attack her. She is drugged, gagged and taken prisoner. Even though she can't see her attacker, she keeps her wits about her and tries to learn all she can about where she is being taken.

When the drug wears off, Chloe finds herself in an abandoned warehouse. It's dirty and bug-infested but there is a shower and a toilet. She has a cramped bed and a small refrigerator. Her kidnapper brings her nourishing and tasty food. He admits that he himself has prepared this food for her. She finds herself interested in this strange older guy. He doesn't seem like a criminal; in any other circumstances, he would probably be a nice guy.

As the days and weeks pass, Chloe longs for home or even some word of home. She tries everything to get more than just a brief message to her mother. It appears that Chloe is being held as leverage; her kidnapper wants the U.S. to free a political prisoner for Chloe's safe return.

Having contact with only one other human and being in constant fear can make a person feel feelings that are not natural. The Stockholm Syndrome is known to exist in kidnapper/prisoner relationships. As the prisoner relies on the kidnapper for existance, the prisoner begins to develop deep feelings for her kidnapper. Is this love? Or is it the Stockholm Syndrome?

When Chloe finally escapes her nightmare, will she be free?

Clever, compelling, and consistant, Held delivers a touching story about a girl in a bad situation and a guy who probably could have been a good guy under the right circumstances.

Highly recommended for grades 9-up. Some sex, adult situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cyber Teen Pick

Brain Jack

Brain Jack
by Brian Falkner
Random House, 2009
349 pages

From the ominous opening pages, Brain Jack delivers as a rocket paced cyber thriller. The prologue creates a sense of urgency and despair about the Internet's grip on our lives. Anywhere there's a network, cyber thieves can steal information, and not just information but even human thoughts. Technology has evolved and cyber gamers are using headsets instead of keyboards to control their computers. People are becoming addicted to gaming and losing control of reality.

When teen cyber hacker and uber-geek Sam Wilson hijacks into a telecommunications company, he gets busted by national security who locks him up. It doesn't take him long to escape, but then he realizes he has been set up; the government hires him to bring down other hackers like himself.

As Sam works with his super secret team, they realize they are up against a threat not just to national security but to human life and human thought itself. An entity has begun that is too powerful to stop. This cyber-presence is everywhere and all-powerful; it reacts before the human team can. What is it that they are up against?

When a computer can be smarter than Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey and a society can be more frightening than A Clockwork Orange, humanity is in trouble. Brain Jack is well-written, deftly and superbly told unraveling at a break-neck pace and will have readers turning the pages late into the night. This chilling tale will resonate with readers who like technology, computers, and thrillers.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ghostly Pick: Shimmer

Shimmer: A Riley Bloom Book (Radiance)

Shimmer
by Alyson Noel
Square Fish (Macmillan), 2011
192 pages

In this second installment of the Riley Bloom trilogy, Riley continues to help ghosts trapped in the Here & Now to cross over into the hereafter. With the help of Bodhi, a guide sent to help her and her golden lab Buttercup, Riley attends to the needs of the spirit world. The three spiritual friends are all on vacation when their fun is interrupted by a huge hound that is not from this world. Riley follows it until she meets one mean-spirited ghost, Rebecca, the daughter of a southern plantation owner trapped on earth, refusing to leave.

Rebecca is angry and hates everything. She keeps all the ghosts trapped with her in the Here & Now, spitefully keeping them from moving on. With the help of a strange African prince who speaks in riddles, Riley is shown how to help Rebecca. First, Riley must see and understand everything that happened to the plantation's slaves and to Rebecca. Only then, can she save all of them.

Readers who loved Radiance (book one) will be drawn to Shimmer. Riley is a spunky and spirited (yes, pun intended) character who has a mind of her own and rarely listens to Bodhi.

Recommended grades 4-7.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the arc of this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Win a Free Copy of Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Choker

Win a free copy of this hot new young adult title. Exciting psychological thriller by Elizabeth Woods. This one is a REAL page-turner (see my review from February). Choker will have teen readers up late into the night reading and relishing the rocking pace and seriously twisted ending. This one is unputdownable and not to be missed! Personally, I even had dreams about this novel after reading it. Comment on this post and tell me why this book would appeal to your readers/teens.

Please include your name, the name of your library or school, the location (city, state) and an email address where you can be reached.

Deadline for posting is March 30 at 12:00 noon MST (Mountain Standard Time)
Winners will be notified by email on March 31. Books will be shipped from Simon & Schuster the week of April 1, 2011. You are still eligible even if you have won a book in a previous giveaway.

Good Luck! Pamela

Fierce Female Heroine Pick--A Sword in Her Hand

A Sword in Her Hand

A Sword in Her Hand
by Jean-Claude Van Rijckeghem and pat Van Beirs
translated by John Nieuwenhuizen
Annick Press, 2011
284 pages

A Sword in Her Hand is masterful storytelling, rich in historic detail, and fast paced. The characters are well developed and the dialog is lively and colorful. Originally published in Belgium and The Netherlands, the novel loses no steam in its English translation.

Born into royalty in 1347, Marguerite will someday inherit the vast holdings of the Count of Flanders and control the mighty army. The Count, Marguerite's father is horrified and angry when she is born a girl; he had counted on an heir, a son who will reign in glory and he never passes up a chance to show his only daughter his contempt of her.

The only way to save the kingdom is to use Marguerite as a pawn in the struggle for dominance in Europe. The Count wants her to marry Edmund, the future King of England, and Marguerite is infatuated with him through his letters. When she meets him in person, however, she is repulsed by his stature, his appearance, and his personality. She refuses to marry him and falls in love with Phillip, the future King of France.

Can Marguerite stand up to her tyrant father? Will she be able to pull a disappearing act and outsmart Edmund? Can she ever marry Phillip? In a world dominated by men, Marguerite weilds her own mighty will and a razor sharp sword. Readers will be captivated by Marguerite, a girl/woman who stands head and shoulders above the men around her. She refuses to stand in any man's shadow including her father's. She is fierce, proud, passionate, and strong.

Highly, highly recommended for high school collections. Grade 9-up. Some language, one bathtub scene, no sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Giveaway Winners

Five winners will receive a copy of the ya thriller Held. Books will ship from Annick Press.

The lucky winners are:
Neilann Thomas, Northridge High School, Tuscaloosa, AL
Sandi Prescott, Arapahoe Charter School, Arapahoe, NC
Tom Kaun, Redwood High School, Larkspur, CA
Brenda Lemon, Chapman High School, Chapman, KS
Kari Healy, North Mankato, MN

Congratulations, winners! A new book giveaway is just days away...New book giveaway opens March 14, 2011.

Graphic Novel Pick: The Never Weres

The Never Weres
by Fiona Smyth
Annick Press, 2011
255 pages (illustrated)

This debut graphic novel by cartoonist and illustrator Fiona Smyth is set in the future in a world where no new babies are being born; the youngest children are fifteen and the aged population of the "oldies" is dying out. With no new citizens, the world will surely die out in a generation. Geneticists and scientists are working fervently to find a solution to this dilemma including finding a safe way to clone humans.

Friends Xian, Mia, and Jesse stumble upon an sixty year old mystery of a missing teenager and a series of tunnels under the city. When they find strange symbols and graphitti, they know they are onto something. Government bots are tracking their progress, and government agents are searching Xian's house and computers.

When Jesse's mother is questioned by the authorities, the kids go into hiding staying just a couple of steps ahead of the agents. What they discover will change the world as they know it.

Exciting and visionary, The Never Weres is a great graphic read. Artwork is compelling and just plain fun. Each layout has so much going on, that readers will want to slow down and study the art. There is great cultural diversity; the three friends represent various ethnic groups and citizens are diverse and unique.

There is one problem in my mind: old computer flash drives or USB drives are found and the characters make fun of them, calling them old-fashioned and joking how ancient the technology is, yet characters still talk on cell phones. If USB drives and PCs are old fashioned, wouldn't cell phones be outdated as well?

Highly recommended for graphic collections grades 7-up.
No language, no sex.

FTC Required disclaimer: I received this books from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chick Pick: The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing
by Christina Mandelski
Egmont, 2011
336 pages

Available May 10, 2011

Sweet, touching, funny, and sad, The Sweetest Thing is truly the sweetest book to come out in a long time. Sheridan Wells is a cake decorator extraordinaire and budding artist, but she is also busy helping in the grandmother's bakery, pulling shifts in her foodie father's restaurant, keeping up with high school classes, falling in love with the most popular guy in school, juggling old friendships, and searching for her mother who left the family home when Sheridan was young.

The longing Sheridan feels for her absent mother is palpable. In the years of missing her mother, Sheridan has made up this "perfect" mother in her mind--she mistakenly believes her mother thinks of her every day and misses her; she just knows that her mother will come back some day. Sheridan doubts so much about herself and her gifts due to her mother's abandonment. When she does make contact with her mother, the outcome is heart-wrenching.

On the other hand, Sheridan's father Donovan has always had her back, but now that he is going to be "the next big thing" in food television, Sheridan feels invisible to him. If her father gets his show "The Single Dad Cooks," they will be forced to leave St. Mary and move to New York City. Sheridan dreads leaving all her friends, her small hometown, and the bakery, but mostly she fears that if she leaves, her mother may never be able to find her--not that Maggie Taylor (her mother) is looking for her, quite the opposite--Maggie has spent years trying to forget being Sheridan's mother in the first place.

Well-written and heartfelt, The Sweetest Thing is one sweet read. Girls who loved Coffeehouse Angel and The Cupcake Queen are sure to love this sweet confection. Sheridan is a complex character with super-hero strength and the heart of a winner!

Highly recommended grades 7-up. No language; no sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chick Pick: The Lipstick Laws

The Lipstick Laws
The Lipstick Laws
by Amy Holder
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group
2011
240 pages

Title Available April 4, 2011

Move over, Lindsey Lohan, there's a new mean girl named Britney and she's got her sights set on high school sophomore April Bowers. April is a second year student at Penford High School but hates to start school again. She really doesn't know anyone except Delvin McGerk, who acts like a loser/stalker.

When the most popular girl in the school takes an interest in being her friend, April is excited. The mean, but popular, girls are led by Britney who acts like a conceited diva and stoops at nothing to embarrass and harass other less popular girls. April cringes when the girls play Rank the Skank and make fun of all the other girls. Their constant gossiping and degrading are making April sick to her stomach, but she craves their attention and longs to be popular. When Britney invites her to join their private clique, April agrees but worries about the price she will have to pay.

Readers will cheer when April gathers her own posse to go after Britney. As April gets even--in a fair and square way--she shows herself to be the better person and even wins the guy of her dreams.

Funny tongue-in-cheek dialog and fascinating study in mean girl clique-ishness, The Lipstick Laws will captivate female readers who like the Clique books and the Pretty Little Liars novels.

Recommended grades 9-up. Some mild language, references to drag queens, cross dressing, teen drinking, and marijuana.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the galley from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Angelfire

Angelfire (Angelfire - Trilogy)
Angelfire
by Courtney Allison Moulton
Harper Collins, 2011
464 pages
Available March 9, 2011

Part romance, part girl super-hero, part paranormal, part Biblical allusion, Angelfire is a fast-paced read sure to resonate with fans of Twilight and Maximum Ride.

Ellie has weird nightmares and premonitions about fighting monsters and demons with swords of angelfire. When she keeps running into an interesting older and sexy guy named Will, she realizes it's not an accident. Will tells her that they have a past together--and it's not any every day, ordinary, ho-hum past. Ellie has been reborn AGAIN and is the Preliator, the one hope of the human race to conquer those evil demons sent to destroy us. Will is her Guardian, sworn to protect her no matter what.

This revelation would be surprising and hard to handle for anyone, but for Ellie, who is best friends with Landon, a boy she has known since childhood (at least in this current lifetime), how does she juggle her human friends, her fueding parents, her hot, sexy guardian who she is falling in love with, her nightly lessons and training in demon-killing, fighting evil, saving humankind, and still trying to pass her high school classes?

If Ellie and Will fail, Ellie's soul will forever die and humans will be no more.

Recommended grades 9-up. Underage drinking and party scenes may not be suitable for younger readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this galley from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teen Pick: Okay For Now

Okay for Now

Okay For Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
page count of the galley is 371; book page count not yet determined
Available April 5, 2011

Touching, gritty, funny, compelling, and sweet, Okay For Now is a poignant coming of age story set in small town America during the 1960s. The novel is narrated by "skinny delivery boy" Doug who reminds this reader of a younger Holden Caulfield, although Doug is not quite the snarky misanthrope, he has his moments and considers almost everyone a "chump." Doug dreams of baseball and his hero Joe Pepitone who once gave him a signed baseball jacket.

Besides baseball, Doug discovers his love of art when he sees a beautiful book on display at the town's library--a large building with intimidating marble steps. The book is a set of prints by American artist John Audubon. Many of the prints are missing having been sold off by the town council or given as gifts to various political friends. Doug starts to sketch each bird under the tutelege of the cataloging librarian Mr. Powell. Doug begins to understand that art has the magic power of taking someone far away--if you can dream it, you can paint it.

Doug's family life is nothing short of dysfunctional. Mom and Dad don't have a real relationship; his dad is always mad and hangs out too late with loser friend Ernie and hates his loser job at the loser mill. Doug's oldest brother is off in Viet Nam fighting the war. His other brother Chris is a bully.

School is not easy either. It seems the gym teacher has it in for him. One day, Doug meets a quirky girl named Lil, and through this chance meeting, he is hired to deliver for her father's deli business. Doug loves his Saturday job and meets several "characters" who help shape his life.

When brother Lucas comes home from Viet Nam, everything changes. Lucas comes home a shell of a man; he is now a blind paraplegic and hates himself and his plight. In one of the most disturbing scenarios in the book, war protesters yell at Lucas in his wheelchair saying it served him right he lost his legs, that they are glad he's blind, and they spit in his face. It's hard to remember that Americans could harbor that kind of hatred toward one of our own.

Doug is also funny. His hatred of poetry is hysterical; readers are sure to smile when he says he wants to punch Percy Bysshe Shelley in the nose! Doug is one determined delivery boy--he gets all the Audobon prints back into the book, makes amends with the gym teacher, gets his handicapped brother a job he loves, and helps Lil through her illness.

Okay For Now is well-written with believable characters and the captivating love that grows between Doug and Lil is heartfelt.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up.
No language, some adult situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the galley from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Bruiser

Bruiser
Bruiser
by Neal Shusterman
Harper Teen, 2010
328 pages

Bruiser is the best Neal Shusterman novel! He just keeps getting better. This is a must-read and will have the reader racing to the ending.

Twins Tennyson and Bronte, named after American writers by their college professor parents, have an on-again, off-again love/hate relationship. When Bronte starts to date an oversize hulk of a boy nicknamed Bruiser, brother/twin Tenny decides to break it up. He warns Bruiser to stay away from his sister and then decides to spy on the boy. When he sees the home life that Bruiser and his kid brother are subjected to, Tenny feels empathy for the other boy and decides to call a truce.

Bruiser likes to be a loner. He is happy with his lot in life even though it means helping to raise younger sibling Cody and putting up with his uncle's drunken rages. In fact, Bruiser has to stay away from people. When he gets too close to Bronte, he starts to feel her pain.

Can Bruiser continue to see Bronte and befriend her whole family without endangering himself? How much longer can Bruiser save Cody from their uncle's wrath? What if Cody is alone when he gets hurt? Will Bruiser be able to save him? And just who is going to save Bruiser?

Highly recommended grades 9-up. Mature grade 8 readers should be okay with this book. Some family violence when Bruiser's uncle tries to harm Cody.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thriller Pick: Cryer's Cross

Cryer's Cross
by Lisa McMann
Simon Pulse, 2011
240 pages

Creepy,chilling, and ominous yet quite a satisfying read, Cryer's Cross is the latest from New York Times bestselling writer Lisa McMann (Fade, Wake). Readers of her earlier books will be compelled to read this one. Set in a small town (212 people), the opening sentence is, "Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears."

As the town searches for the missing girl and people start locking their doors at night, life slowly begins to get back to normal and school starts again. Kendall Fletcher worries about the missing girl and envisions all the terrible scenarios that could possibly have played out. It doesn't help that Kendall has OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. She likes things neat, just-so, and everything in its place. In fact, her attention to detail helps her see things that other people miss.

When her friend/boyfriend Nico goes missing, Kendall's world is turned upside down. What is happening in Cryer's Cross? Who is taking its children? And why?

This novel is a page-turner that will have readers clamoring for more.

Highly recommended grade 9-12. A few instances of profanity. No sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Middle School Pick: The Secret of Rover

The Secret of Rover
by Rachel Wildavsky
Amulet, 2011
368 pages

Exciting adventure book for tweens, The Secret of Rover is a sure hit. This action book is a cross between Alex Rider adventures and a modern day Nancy Drew. Twins David and Katie live happily with their parents Sandra and Alan Bowden until the Bowdens travel to Katkajan to adopt baby Theo. Once there, the Bowdens and their new baby are kidnapped.

Katie and David stay stateside with a nanny from Katkajan hired to watch them in their parent's absence. Their parents thought having a Katkajanian nanny would help the adopted baby feel at home. But this nanny is evil--the kids soon find out that Trixieis no nanny and she isn't there to watch over them; she is there to steal from them and snoop into their parents' computers.

As Trixie becomes more dangerous and more Katkajanians show up at their home, the kids know they are in real trouble. After the bad guys dump them in a rat-infested house in their old, pre-millionaire, tumble-down neighborhood, Katie and David manage to escape and are on the run. They decide to find recluse Uncle Alex and seek his help to find their missing parents.

Years before, their mom and dad along with Uncle Alex developed a secret creation that they sold for millions to the U.S. government. Uncle Alex was in love at the time, and no one knows why but he left civilization and became a sort of hermit in Vermont.


It's hard to be on the run when you're only twelve. The police will find two twelve-year old kids traveling alone suspicious; storekeepers will ask questions, and the foreign bad guys are still following them. The kids are captivating, quick-thinking, brave, and incredibly creative at solving problems on the road. The secret of Rover will be revealed and it will save everyone.

Great fun and spectacular adventure, The Secret of Rover will delight readers who enjoy adventure and espionage books.

Highly recommended grades 4-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this galley from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.